While his children were struggling with bridging their two worlds, Otoosan was busy working to support his family during the down turn in the economy and still provide for the well being of his mother and Shigeno in Japan. It was only a year after the Black Thursday that signaled the crash of the stock market that the children had returned to.
After World War I, rural America had lost more than 30% of their value, homes foreclosed, factories idle, millions without work, and families in need of basic necessities. Then the Dust Bowls of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle added more misery to the fading economy. Farms abandoned and Americans from the Midwest started their migration to California seeking to find work or anything to sustain their families. However, the influx of people further exasperated the crumbling job market. Americans against Americans, an ugly scene occurred at the State’s border. California State Representatives alarmed at the ever-increasing migration, issued orders to stop the itinerants at the State border – no Okies or Arkies allowed to enter California’s border. In 1937, California passed the “Anti-Okies Law” forbidding any person, agent, or corporation from providing aid or help to indigent person not a resident to California.
Some moved to the San Joaquin Valley seeking employment as fruit pickers and farm hands. Work was scarce and the farms would exploit children with low wages instead hiring adults. Unlike seasonal workers who moved after harvest, the new crowd remained instead of migrating. They came to this region destitute and because they could not make decent wages, they lived in squalor, in tents, in shantytowns, and anywhere they could rest their weary bones. Out of this misery came John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” On the other hand, they left their mark as plain southern folks wherever they congregated. This was the world the family had returned to. It was not pretty.
Sometimes they would see a needy person seeking work or food. Her parents always gave the unfortunate person food to last another day. Yet, the Issei would survive somehow without asking for a handout from the Government, from anyone, from standing in the soup lines when all was bleak.
It was Haji; shame a cultural force that dominates Japanese lives. There would be hard times for his family, still Otoosan would somehow ride out the storm and the rice bowl would not be empty. Moreover, it counted on everyone to pitch in and do their share or work. Even Yo, who was nine years old, was not exempt from doing chores.
On her first day at school, Yo had passed a test that allowed her to enter a class commensurate with her age, the fourth grade. Meanwhile, it was embarrassing for her sisters, if not humbled, to find they were in the first grade. They had to endure that strange questioning looks of the first graders wondering who the new older students were and why they were in their class. “Hazukashii, embarrassing her sisters said, but...